“That He ought to be worshiped by adoration, prayer, and thanksgiving. “But that the most acceptable service of God is doing good to man. “And that God will certainly reward virtue and punish vice, either here or hereafter.”
Those words were written by Benjamin Franklin concerning the act of Thanksgiving, and the importance of gratitude. I had always remembered this from my school days, but this year it hit me all over again.
I was dressed as Benjamin Franklin, Hugh was Abraham Lincoln, Juan was George Washington, and Sam was, well Uncle Sam. When we were recruited for this, I never expected we would be cooking in character, but here we were. Add the fact that we were cooking for 300, added to the sweat under my wig.
First off, we’re actors, not chefs. We are home cooks. Juan has five kids, so it’s a necessity. His brother Sam is a bachelor trying to remedy that, so he cooks, gardens, anything to find a bride. I’m engaged to Velma, and I’m teaching her to cook. My Mom owns a deli. Hugh has a sweet tooth, he bakes, and runs a lot, so he can bake.
We were hired to appear at a dinner for the winning classes from a national contest to celebrate American Thanksgiving history. The chef was supposed to be a famous celebrity chef and his crew. Their plane was grounded in New York due to the weather.
The same weather pattern that was now running down the streets of Philadelphia. All the food had been delivered the day before. None of this was on the weatherman’s forecast this morning. It wasn’t even sprinkling when the kids filed in for a full day of activities.
An hour later the weather was so bad, the streets were too bad to travel. At least until the salt trucks did their work. The problem was, we couldn’t get a substitute chef to drive across town.
I don’t know what made Juan raise his hand, maybe it’s the costume. “We’re not chefs, but we know how to cook. We can do the dinner. We’ll even do it in character.”
I can promise you, at that moment, Hugh did not think like Abraham Lincoln. He whispered, “Let’s kill him.” Before he could Do out of character bodily harm, the desperate history and tv people in charge, said yes.
I repowdered my wig when I dropped the flour for the gravy. The turkeys were doing well, I remembered to remove the gunky stuff. Hugh was baking bread, cakes, and pies.
Thankfully the place they had got across from Independence Hall had a full professional kitchen. We recruited half the tv crew, and anyone we could as sous chefs. Velma was there, she acts as our agent, so she helped too.
Sam lost focus half way through, when he met Sally, one of the lighting people. Hugh, who was not looking for a wife at all, met a girl. You’ll never guess her name, Mary. She was one of the teachers of the third grade class.
Several things went wrong, we burnt the first batch of macaroni. Dropped a pan of mashed potatoes, but this story isn’t about that. It’s not even about our Uncle Sam and Honest Abe meeting their sweethearts.
This story is about the look on the children’s face, after we served the food. Hugh took the stage, his black suit stained with orange sweet potatoes, and chocolate cake batter. That didn’t stop him from giving a passionate rendition of President Lincoln’s 1863 Thanksgiving declaration.
Juan read Washington’s October 1789 proclamation next. We thought it would be more memorable to have Lincoln lead back to Washington, pointing back to the origins of the day. Though it was Sam who stopped everyone in their tracks, with something he had written himself.
Normally we wouldn’t have had that leeway, but we were all that was available. He cleared his throat, a little nervous. Soon that gave way to his strong, but soft voice.
“Unlike my friends here, I play more a symbol than the man he was based on. So I don’t have historical words to offer you. As a representation of a symbol, let me tell you what Thanksgiving means to me.”
“It reminds me that all of us should be thankful for a band of people who came to this land to experience something far sweeter than a turkey dinner. They crossed an ocean to savor faith, freedom, and opportunity. Because of people like this, our founding fathers, and those who came after, we are all here today.”
“In this land, named not for a king, but a map maker, we all chart our own course. Each of us have different stories, but we all celebrate this American adventure, and are truly thankful to be a part of it. Today is more than a holiday. It’s an opportunity to freely bow our heads, lifting thankful hearts to God for His blessings, especially the United States Of America.”
I closed with Benjamin Franklin’s words, and a simple prayer. Then, spontaneously, one of the students stood, and started to sing God Bless America. What better day than Thanksgiving, and what better way, to say Thank You for our wonderful home.